Official Biography

Little Irene living a life worth writing about.

The Dykes Family in Thailand.
Irene is the one holding the yellow umbrella.

Micro (50 words) Bio: Irene Latham is the author of more than a dozen current and forthcoming poetry, fiction and picture books for children and adults, including Leaving Gee's Bend, 2011 ALLA Children's Book of the Year. Winner of the 2016 ILA Lee Bennett Hopkins Promising Poet Award, she also serves as poetry editor for Birmingham Arts Journal.

Short (100 words) Bio: Irene Latham is the author of more than a dozen current and forthcoming books, including two novels for children: Leaving Gee's Bend and Don't Feed the Boy. Winner of the 2016 ILA Lee Bennett Hopkins Promising Poet Award, her poetry books for children include Dear Wandering Wildebeest, When the Sun Shines on Antarctica, Fresh Delicious and Can I Touch Your Hair? (co-written with Charles Waters). Irene lives in Birmingham, Alabama with her family where she does her best to “live her poem” every single day by laughing, playing the cello, and walking in the woods.

Longer (200 words) Bio Especially for Poetry Events: Irene Latham's passion for poetry started as soon as she could read and write, with Shel Silverstein and love poems crafted for her mother. Named the winner of the 2016 International Literary Association-Lee Bennett Hopkins Promising Poet Award and the Alabama State Poetry Society 2006 Poet of the Year, Irene has published poems for adults and children in anthologies, journals and literary magazines, including Scholastic's Action, Scope and Storyworks.Her first volume for adults WHAT CAME BEFORE (Negative Capability Press, 2007) earned an Independent Publisher's (IPPY) Award and was named Alabama State Poetry Society's 2007 Book of the Year. Her second collection THE COLOR OF LOST ROOMS (Blue Rooster Press, 2010) features poems inspired by history, art and nature and was awarded the Writer's Digest 19th Annual Book Prize for Poetry and named a National Indie Excellence Book Award Finalist. Her third collection THE SKY BETWEEN US was released in 2014. She has served as poetry editor for Birmingham Arts Journal since 2003 and especially loves discovering and working with people just finding their poetic voices. She is also the author of two award-winning novels for children: LEAVING GEE'S BEND (Putnam/Penguin, 2010) and DON'T FEED THE BOY (Roaring Brook/Macmillan, 2012). She has authored three collections of poems for children: DEAR WANDERING WILDEBEEST (Millbrook Press, 2014), set at an African water hole and named a Bank Street Best Book and an SCBWI Lee Bennett Hopkins Honor book, FRESH DELICIOUS (Wordsong, 2016), featuring poems from the farmer's market, and WHEN THE SUN SHINES ON ANTARCTICA (Millbrook Press, 2016).

Ridiculously Long (500 words) Irene Latham is a poet and novelist who writes heart-touching tales of unexpected adventure. She was born in Georgia, the third in a family that would eventually include five children. At one time or another she had lived in various parts of Florida, Louisiana and Tennessee. She also traveled worldwide with her family, including a two and a half year stint in Saudi Arabia before settling in Birmingham, Alabama, where she has lived since 1984.

When Irene was eight years old, she wrote in her Dr. Seuss' MY BOOK ABOUT ME that, in addition to mother, veterinarian and farmer, she wanted to be a writer. However, she didn't take a single writing class in college. Instead, she earned degrees in social work from University of Alabama at Birmingham and University of Alabama (Tuscaloosa). Irene also participated in the Walt Disney College Program and is the proud recipient of a Mouster's Degree. For many years writing was Irene's secret life, but after the birth of her third son, she decided to pull those poems and stories out of drawers and share them with others. Since then she has published poems for adults and children in various books, journals and anthologies, including Scholastic’s Action, Scope and Storyworks magazines, and was named Alabama 2006 Poet of the Year. Her full-length collection WHAT CAME BEFORE (Negative Capability Press, 2007) was named Alabama State Poetry Society's Book of the Year and earned a 2008 Independent Publisher's (IPPY) Award. Her second collection THE COLOR OF LOST ROOMS (Blue Rooster Press, 2010) features poems inspired by history, art and nature and was awarded the Writer’s Digest 19th Annual Self-Published Book Prize for Poetry and named a National Indie Excellence Book Award Finalist. Her latest collection THE SKY BETWEEN US (Blue Rooster Press, 2014) explores what nature can teach us about being human.

Irene’s first historical novel for children, LEAVING GEE’S BEND (Putnam/Penguin, 2010) was awarded the Alabama Library Association's 2011 Children's Book Award. It was inspired by the now-famous Quilts of Gee’s Bend and has been called “a beautifully stitched quilt of a novel” by Richard Peck and “authentic and memorable” by Booklist. Her latest novel DON’T FEED THE BOY (Roaring Brook/Macmillan, 2012), about a boy who wants to escape his life at the zoo, was named a Bank Street College Best Book and was selected to represent Alabama at the 2013 National Book Festival. Named the winner of the 2016 International Literary Association-Lee Bennett Hopkins Promising Poet Award, she has authored three collections of poems for children: DEAR WANDERING WILDEBEEST (Millbrook Press, 2014), set at an African water hole and named a Bank Street Best Book and an SCBWI Lee Bennett Hopkins Honor book, FRESH DELICIOUS (Wordsong, 2016), featuring poems from the farmer's market, and WHEN THE SUN SHINES ON ANTARCTICA (Millbrook Press, 2016).

Irene especially enjoys sharing her passion for writing with others at school, senior centers, libraries, Girl Scout meetings and writing conferences. She is the co-founder of the Big Table Poets and has served since 2003 as poetry editor for Birmingham Arts Journal. She loves exploring new places and often uses "research" as an excuse to travel. Her favorite characters in books and real life are those who have the courage to go their own way.